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West Ham United v Wigan Athletic - Match Preview

Filed: Friday, 26th November 2010
By: Preview Percy

Tube workers and even Scottish referees are going on strike this weekend. Sadly Preview Percy hasn't joined in with the winter of discontent. We live in hope but in the meantime....

Next we entertain Wigan Athletic at the Boleyn for a 3pm Saturday kick-off. (Weather permitting).

The visitors are, of course, the plaything of one of our favourite people. With the possible exception of half of Sheffield, you'd be hard pushed to find anyone quite as hypocritical as Mr Whelan whose crimes have kept us so amused over the years. It would take up far too much room to list all the liar's crimes, suffice to say that his moral and ethical standards make the chosen trade or profession of our two Daves look almost honourable in comparison.

The visitors are managed by Roberto Martinez whose appointment came a few short months after our mate Dave had gone on record about how disgraceful it was for clubs to employ foreign coaches and how he would never do such a thing. Now many of you are probably thinking this is just yet another example of Whelan's Groucho Marx approach to double standards (“ have principles – if you don't like them I have others”). Me? I just reckon he's thick myself.

Martinez has guided Wigan to 18th place this season, which is two places and five points above us. They are also through to the quarter finals of the League Cup, having knocked out Martinez's previous club Swansea in the previous round. They've won one, drawn two and lost three of their last six. The win came courtesy of a 1-0 win over West Brom a few weeks back. However, their defeat last week at Old Trafford proved costly for reasons not only connected with the lack of points return. They lost Rodellega and Alcaraz to red cards against Man Utd. Rodallega's straight red gets him a three week holiday whilst Alcaraz gets just the week for his two yellow cards

On the left they have an interesting character in the form of Charles N'Zogbia. Voted last season's player of the year, he spent the close season looking like he was on his way to Birmingham City, the clubs having agreed a fee of something like £9m. N'Zogbia and the Brummies failed to agree personal terms and the player remained on the Wigan payroll. Recent discussions between the player and the club suggest that he'll be on his way as soon as a bigger club expresses an interest. On hearing that piece of news the good people of Dagenham & Redbridge raised an eyebrow until it was pointed out that he also wanted Champions' League football as well. N'Zogbia arrived from Newcastle in the middle of their mad relegation season following a major toys out of the pram incident where he stated that he would never play for Joe Kinnear again. Kinnear's crime was to have referred to the player as insomnia. Footballers are a funny lot aren't they.

N'Zogbia is clearly not happy with the way his career has progressed since exchanging the North east for the North West. Another who seemed to have has a much brighter future than has panned out is 'keeper Chris Kirkland. Kirkland has been plagued by a bad back (insert your own joke about us having four of them) during a career that continually saw him on the verge of gaining the England cap that his family had shrewdly had stuck a few bob on, only to see him withdraw from the squad through injury. Kirkland has made only three starts in the league this season and as his first-team opportunities have been limited he has decided to up sticks to join Leicester on loan, where he will be reunited with Sven Goran Erikson, whose decision to bring Kirkland on in a friendly netted the family a rumoured £10,000 at the expense of the bookies.

Kirkland's former place in goal has been taken by Ali Al Habsi. Try as I might I can' t think of another Omani to have played in the Premier League (which probably means that there have been loads). Al Habsi is currently on loan from Bolton. His transfer to the Reebok was one of those listed officially as “dodgy” in the Stevens Report, which queried the role of Fat Sam Allardyce and his son Craig in the deal. Al Habsi ought to feel right at home at Wigan then.

For all Whelan's comments about foreign coaches it's noticeable that his patriotism doesn't extend to his playing staff. Of the eleven that started in Salford last week, only Caldwell (S) and Thomas had names that were remotely English – and Caldwell is Scottish and Thomas (arguably a Welsh name anyway) is Honduran. There is likely to be more home involvement this weekend with the absence of the suspended duo. One who might get a start is former Palace kid Victor Moses. The Nigerian- born England U21 cap arrived for tuppence ha'penny as Wigan swooped like vultures over the administration-ravaged carcass of Crystal Palace. He was joined on the bench last weekend by another former Palace player Ben Watson. Watson has spent most of his Wigan career elsewhere on loan. Last year he was at West Brom for much of the season, though he returned in time to face us in the corresponding fixture last season, his major contribution being to take corners from well outside the “D”.

Ok here's the bit I've been dreading. Talking about us. Avram Grant has been mocked in many quarters for insisting that the results we've been getting haven't reflected the performances we've put in. To some degree he has had a point – there's been any number of matches this season where we've come away with less than we really deserved. However last week's trip to Scouseland definitely fell outside that category. Ok there were injuries and illness to contend with but the performance at Anfield was shockingly poor by any standards. With the possible exception of Noble and Green, not one player earned the support he got from the travelling Irons who kept up a self-deprecating sing-song for the full 90 minutes (unlike the home support – surely it's time that this myth about the great support that Liverpool have is put to bed). Not to put too fine a point on it, the apparent lack of effort and the lack of any sort of idea tactically-speaking was unacceptable. The noises coming out of the club this week suggest that the players might have started to realise that more is required. If the Anfield performance – which made a mediocre side look like world-beaters - represents some sort of watershed then fine but it's frustrating that it will have taken something like that for the penny to drop.

Changes have been afoot behind the scenes of course. Petrovic has departed for the far East declaring that the quality of football in the Premier League is generally shocking. Well, on the evidence of the Anfield defeat he's not wrong – and it's good of him to accept the blame (though that's not what he was actually doing of course). I wish I could get excited about the appointment of Wally Downes as defensive coach but try as I might I'm struggling. It could be a case of the change itself serving to inspire things (rather than the personnel involved) but frankly things were so bad last week that's more a hope than an expectation.

Team news is mixed. Mark Noble is out for a bit having picked up an injury caused by the strain of having to carry the team last week. Scott Parker may be back after the viral infection that kept him away from last week's shambles but Behrami may be a longer shot to start as he's still struggling with a dodgy hip. Dyer? No idea.

Prediction? Well my usual blind optimism took a good kicking with that performance last week. However, the recurring thought that the defeat might just represent the kick up the backside that is sorely needed in one or two places is one that is just about keeping me going at the moment. Wigan will be missing two important players and the apparent sense of urgency suggests that the players may be up for this one in a manner that was sadly lacking from last week's farce. Let's go for a 2-1 win – but don't back it on my say so!

Enjoy the game!

Last Season: Won 3-2 - A nervy 90 saw Parker's screamer give us all three points and all but secured Premiership status for another season.

Referee: Mark Halsey - First time we've had him for a while following his absence from the game whilst suffering with cancer. Good to see him back.

Danger Man: Jordi Gomez – Spanish midfielder who followed Martinez from Swansea (via Espanyol). Sometimes accused of laziness by the Wigan support, he has a dangerous line in free-kicks.

Daft fact of the week: Wigan blamed their poor away form last season on their orange away kit in which they let in 8 at Chelsea and 9 at Spurs. 8 plus 9 is 17 which, coincidentally, is the usual number of away supporters that are likely to make the journey to the Boleyn this weekend.

Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.

Your Comments

by Tell it how it is Charley
10:29AM 27th Nov 2010
''This guy Victor Moses is a player what West Ham need in midfield. Parker was rested last week.

You mention Noble; But surely when you play the 4-5-1 Noble is the player that has to get up there and support Cole? Something that he doesn't do. When you look to play a 4-5-1 you need Noble to be a Steven Gerrard, unfortunately something he is not.

The two wide midfield players need to help the respective left and right backs stop the crosses coming in. The midfield needs sorting out. That was clearly evident last year.''

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